In colonial times education was not a government priority in Kenya beyond the children of expatriates, many of whom travelled far across dusty plains by train to attend one of the few secondary schools that existed. By the time of independence in 1963, there were still only 30,000 secondary school pupils among a population of 8.9 million, averaging a scant 200 per school. There was also just a single university namely Nairobi University College, and even that was a branch of the University of East Africa with less than one thousand Kenya students.
In the years that followed a number of additional universities were established by the government, but all still based in major urban centers. As a consequence of this it is not unfair to say that, to rural Kenyans at least, a university education remains the dream that it was in colonial times. This is especially true because their parents are unable to fund the additional cost of travel, and remote accommodation near a university too. Besides, what would youngsters like that do with their degree, when they returned home to the hinterland after graduating?
This is all set to change forever in terms of a Kenya government drive that’s set to bring rural university education opportunities to Kenyans no matter where they live. The fresh dynamic approach includes intensive investment in digital and distance learning, that’s so essential in a country twice the size of Nevada yet still with few good roads. Existing places of higher learning will be encouraged to open branches in rural districts too, where practical courses will be offered in dry-land farming, tourism and hospitality.
Let’s hope that these ambitious plans work out for the far spread out African country, and that happy Kenya students, like those in the picture here, become commonplace in a land thirsty for education, water, food and knowledge-based development.